The next morning we left for the Canadian border and although there was plenty of snow about and the temperature was below freezing at least the snow storm had stopped.
We got through customs reasonably easy though they kept our passports for forty five minutes and we had to pay tax on the merch we declared, even if we sold it or not. Thankfully they agreed the amount without emptying the van to count it, as is their right should they wish.
We entered Canada over the Thousand Island Bridge which stretches the Saint Lawrence River connecting New York State and Ontario and the views of the snowy archipelago are just staggering, it really is a grand entrance into the country.
Interestingly, one of them, Deer Island, is owned by the secret society Skull And Bones of which George Bush and John Kerry have admitted to being members, a society claimed to play a role in a global conspiracy for world control.
We arrived at this really cool venue and with a name like Katacombes what else would you expect to be in abundance other than skulls.
With no parking at our central located hotel, we asked if we could leave the van in the venue car park overnight as it was only a short walk from there. The staff said that it wouldn’t be a problem but that they have had quite a few vans broken into recently and even had one disappear.
This obviously couldn’t be allowed to happen and I told the guys that I would sleep in the van so nothing could happen to it. The guys obviously didn’t like the idea given that temperatures would probably hit minus seven degrees, but what was the alternative, we all leave the van, have a lovely sleep in a nice warm hotel then come back in the morning to find the van gone? That wasn’t an option because no van means no tour and I wasn’t going to let that happen.
This shit does happen as I know only too well when Breed 77 lost all their equipment out of the van in London, £40k of gear that has never been seen since, and in fact I slept in the Breed van on a UK tour in Nottingham one night when we couldn’t find secure parking, though I must admit Montreal was a tad cooler than Nottingham.
So with everything agreed and the sleeping bag and pillow on the back seat, the rest of the guys made for the hotel while I stayed in the club until throwing out time and aided with a few Jamesons and maple syrup liqueur shots to warm the blood I took my place as guardian of the gear.
I woke up at eight in the morning shaking like a crack addict going cold turkey, and with my bladder about to internally combust I made my way onto the high street in search of a rest room. The only place that was open was an army surplus store, and looking like an old tramp I went inside and explained my situation. The guy behind the counter took pity on me and thankfully directed me to the rest room.
Back in the van and this time with the engine running to warm it up a bit, I fell asleep upright in the drivers seat until a knock on the window woke me up.
Karl took my position while I got horizontal on the back seat again, and off we went to pick the guys up from the hotel before heading off to that nights gig in Ottawa.
We decided to split the journey in two with a lunch stop and as we passed through Casselman we spotted Brian’s Bar & Grill. I suppose we couldn’t really go anywhere else, could we.
With the temperature falling rapidly we arrived at the very aptly named Brass Monkey and although the gig was down two flights of stairs we thankfully had a great local crew helping out.
With the gear set up and soundcheck done, it was time for dinner. We were shown to a lovely Italian restaurant with the order, choose what you like, we got it covered. Awesome hospitality yet again – UK venues should take note.
At the end of the meal as we waited for our cheesecake to go, Karl produced a small parcel and placed it on the table, he then shook my hand and thanked me along with the rest of the guys for sleeping in the van the previous night and to show me their appreciation they presented me with the very first Diamond Head medal of honour.
With a face like the proverbial Cheshire cat, I accepted the medal and duly pinned it on my shirt.
Back at the gig and with the band about to go on stage, I was invited into the band hug and after a few inspirational words from Karl and with goosebumps all over, I could have gone into battle.
At the end of the gig as Karl was doing his ‘thanking the fans’ speech, he hauled me up on stage and told the crowd about this crazy dude who slept in the van in sub zero temperatures to look after the gear.
I proudly showed off my medal and wallowed in the applause; what a great moment and afterwards I had guys coming up shaking my hand thanking me for making sure the band made it to the gig.
The next morning the snow was now quite deep. We had thought about taking the picturesque route to tonight’s gig as we had plenty of time but as the snow was falling quite heavily it was decided to stick to the main route. Brian and I had a great conversation with him explaining his writing process and other stuff like time changes that don’t really work for him, though he thought he probably got it right with ‘Am I Evil?’.
He explained that at the time the band didn’t really realise the epic they had composed, and that Sean wasn’t too fond of it, moving it about in the set trying to find a place for it. However, as is the norm, the fans have the final say as to what is and is not a classic and I think we can all agree that it has now found its rightful place as the set closer.
Karl mentions the band have played tonight’s venue before and it has a lot of stairs. Brian then remembered they had a huge guy who carried the Bass Ampeg on his own. Please let him be there tonight!
However, when we arrived at The Garrison it became apparent that this wasn’t the venue the guys played the last time they were in Toronto and with a nice load in, there was no need for the huge guy after all.
Thirty seconds into ‘Borrowed Time’ and we had a power failure that Brian was onto in seconds and with normal service resumed the guys started the set again and it turned out to be one of the best gigs so far. We’ve had a pit at virtually every gig so far, which is a relatively new phenomenon for Diamond Head, but tonight I think we saw for the first time, certainly for me, crowd surfing and a stage invasion. I’m all for crowd surfing but leave the stage invasion out.
With pizzas to go we set off after the gig for a two hour drive to the hotel to get us near the border for our crossing back into the US the following day.
Next stop Detroit rock city.
“Without Diamond Head, none of this would have existed…”
Lars Ulrich – Metallica